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#InterviewSeries | Pauline Narvas

As far as goals go, @Paulienuh pretty much optimises them all. I strongly suggest you follow her on all avenues possible (details below), her content is FIRE, she'll make you want to work out, get organised and be grateful. She's not only a bio-med student at Sheffield Uni, but she also blogs, codes, lifts and meditates. DAMN GIRL, you inspirational!

"Hi there, I’m Pauline. 👋🏼

I do a lot of things but in a nutshell, I’m studying an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Sciences, currently 85% into my year in industry placement where I focus on communications and external engagement. Outside of this, I’m a self-taught web-developer, old school blogger, fitness fanatic. I also take a lead in the organisation of Code First: Girls community courses in Sheffield where we not only teach female students how to code but also empower them with opportunities in tech and entrepreneurship. Also I’m Tech Lead and COO at MedTech Sheffield where I work on bridging the gap between technology and medicine and healthcare."

How do you personally use technology in your day to day?

Like most people, I use technology every single day! My job is office-based and so I’m always working on the computer to create, produce, write, schedule, communicate and organise. Outside of my job, I also have a blog which I’ve had running since I was only 8 years old where I write weekly posts on topics important to me. I use technology - i.e. my phone and my trusty Macbook Pro (I call her Rachel) to write my content. I’ve recently started creating YouTube videos (on the odd occasion such as pushing content from my trips) which again heavily relies on my laptop.

Other uses that isn’t “obvious” is that I use my phone to meditate and exercise. Meditation practice is such a positive habit that I’ve implemented into my life last year and without have gotten into the 5am habit without the help of the Calm app. In addition, the Aflete app is currently what I use to help track my GFG (GraceFitGuide) workouts every morning - without it I wouldn’t be as motivated for sure. I also workout with FitnessBlender, which I view on my laptop so again - tech has such a big impact on my everyday life!

How do you use technology in your job role?

As I highlighted above, I use it EVERY DAY in a range of different things. My role is quite varied as it is an placement so I’ve had the opportunity to try out different things but here are a few examples:

  • Creation and maintenance of databases

  • Communication and information flow to externals and internals by creating e-newsletters

  • Coding websites for groups at the University

… all couldn’t be achieved without online tools and the machine itself!

Other cool things I do with new tech:

  • Applications of augmented reality to showcase work (various tools / apps but currently using LayAR for a project! Mobile devices have helped bring all this to life)

  • Gamification of certain projects (again using an app: ActionBound)

What have been the best learning resources for you?

I am largely self-taught in coding. I started in some time when I was 8 years old with simple HTML. At the time I didn’t know of online resources (of which there is a vast number nowadays!) so it was mostly little me, Notepad, trial and error and a hell lot of time on my hands. I practiced my coding skills on Piczo, Freewebs then eventually got a sub-domain then my own domain (after winning a Namecheap competition!) Over the years, I taught myself HTML, CSS, bits of Javascript and PHP as well as other things related to domains like setting up a database for Wordpress and clicking all the things on cPanel, y’know.

I haven’t stopped learning code ever since. I joined the early Code First Girls class and learned a load of new things that I had missed when I taught myself as a little girl so I value the course greatly - it’s been a great place to learn and meet such like minded people (I mean I met my sista/soul-mate Sophia on there so ;)) so I encourage it if you can’t be strict yourself - it’s an awesome environment!

Like I said, there’s lots of resources online. I’m currently learning Ruby with Codecademy! But there’s endless amounts of support you can get online - YouTube has some gems.

As a woman, do you think you have faced any challenges that a man would not face in your position?

I think generally women have to go through a lot more; not only because of certain external preconception but also lack of confidence and belief in their own abilities (I know this was the case for me) and the trait of needing to be perfect before going for something - and I’m not just talking job-hunting; it’s applicable to different aspects of life which can be stressful! (e.g. in projects)

During International Women’s Day, Tejay White, a fellow instructor of the CFG Sheffield course, highlighted that men are more likely to apply for jobs that they are not 100% qualified for but do so anyway. Whereas women, have the tendency to want to tick all the boxes and thus often miss out on opportunities. The shift to move this mindset is a challenge!

I think another thing is being taken seriously.

I have had countless experiences of not being taken seriously by people I have had to work with. Why? Because they had a lack of faith in my abilities, coding a website or leading a group project being two of a few examples. This greatly affected my confidence in myself and it was a challenge for me for years to fight that negative mindset and to boost my self-confidence. This is actually why I hadn’t actually told people I could code at University before going in the CFG course (which boosted my confidence massively!) fear of not being taken seriously, made fun of and called out for not knowing “all the code” I remember being made fun of by boys and girls at school when I’d tell them about a website I created, calling me all sorts including: “a tomboy” “a guy in disguise” 🙄 and “fake”. This a challenge a lot of aspiring girl(not just women!) coders/developers may have - it sucks but finding your support group and a safe environment is key.

It’s also worth mentioning that yeah, women face a lot of challenges every day in comparison to men - not just in the working life - but personally too. Also, the inequality and challenges we face is not just focused on gender but also race. I know that challenges I face as a Filipino-Spanish woman greatly differs from white women.

What HAS been your biggest challenge so far?

I’ve faced a lot of challenges in the last year alone. But the biggest challenge that pops into mind almost immediately is the shift in my mindset. This time last year I was in a horrible, depressive state that inhibited my ability to do anything and everything I used to enjoy. Shifting my mental state from my “there’s no point, I want this all to end now” to “there’s so much left for me to do”, from dark to light was the biggest challenge this year.

Your mind doesn’t have to be your worse enemy, make it your best friend.

With regards to technology, what do you think will be our biggest barrier to success in the future?

Lack of diversity. We cannot thrive in technological and scientific advancements or even as a society without diversity.

An example I can think of is the all-girl Afghan robotics team who just were allowed entry to the US. Giving them that opportunity will allow them to show off what they are capable of, is just the beginning.

Blocking off opportunities because they are female and/or because they are from a certain country is a barrier to collaborative work and our success in technology in the future. Diversity is key - keep pushing it in your teams!

Who makes up your support squad?

Ahh I have so many people who support me and I am so thankful, I wish I could name everyone but I fear of missing out someone by accident! But my support squad ranges from online buddies I’ve known for years from the blogosphere, friends from my degree (they help me get through those long nights of “wtf-ing” at my biology), my SUPER AMAZING PHENOMENAL #ShefCodeFirst team and a special mention to Hamdah, my best friend, who has supported me since we first met in Spanish class at school years ago.

Also I met a guy last year. The guy who-is-more-than-a-friend, Matt, has been one of my biggest supporters, my confidence has skyrocketed and I’ve become a more positive, better version of myself thanks to his support. He’s my biggest fan. Well, of course after myself but y’know.

What’s your favorite piece of advice to offer entrepreneurial/techy women?

I went to a Women in Tech conference in February where I had the opportunity to listen to a number of incredible women about their struggles, challenges and how they overcame them. One piece of advice that stuck by me since by Jessica Rose is that, “As long as you’re not visibly freaking out, people think you know what you’re doing.” Confidence is everything. 👏🏼 I know that since my confidence and belief in my own abilities has improved greatly this year, I’ve seen results materialise in front of me:

  • I’m taken more seriously, and if I’m not, I ensure that I am (assertiveness!) which has helped me secure more projects and get recommendations

  • I cut bullsh*t fast. Gone are the days of “oh, ok” and passively just going with the flow even if it’s turning into something quite toxic. Waste my time? Nope. You can’t: I have stuff to do, people to meet, things to action.

Confidence is key. Become aware of how badass you are. Self-awareness is the step up towards your goals, whatever they may be. You can do the thing (whatever it may be), in tech or as an entrepreneur or even as a student trying to scrape that 2:1, be confident. As the saying goes: fake it till you make it. 😝

You can find me at:

Snapchat: paulienuh

Thank you for your wise insights and beautiful advice!

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